By Law Mefor

Dear Party delegates,

Nigerians have come a long way together and have more to lose dividing now. However, the components that make up Nigeria must first unite and resolve all the contradictions in nationhood to make way for development. Give me a moment or two to share some thoughts with you as you respond to this historic summon to decide on the nation’s next President. How you handle this national assignment can remake or mar our country, Nigeria.

For not assenting to further amendment to the Electoral Act, President Muhammadu Buhari, has consequentially removed the statutory delegates from voting to choose the party flag-bearers. So, you the ad-hoc delegates elected for that purpose are the ones that have the destiny of the nation and our democracy thrust upon. Use this opportunity patriotically.

Recently, former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, said that Nigeria is not yet a nation but only a country. This is simply because Nigerians are yet to resolve the issues surrounding nationhood in order to become a nation indeed. Thus their allegiance even as citizens is not to Nigeria but to their ethnic groups, from the smallest to the biggest citizen. This is the reason Nigeria cannot develop and insecurity has enveloped the land.

Before Nigeria may come to be, the 250 ethnic nationalities must, together, overcome the centrifugal forces tearing the country apart. This way, the majority of citizens will be in a position to fight and defend their nation. It is from this feeling that the concept of patriotism grows and flows  into a centrifugal force that fights off all the negative forces working against the unity of a nation such as Nigeria.

We all see these centrifugal forces as fault-lines all over the country and in the escalating number of non-state actors and ungoverned spaces. The  brutal forces are audaciously dividing up and sharing our nation’s sovereignty. In this tug of war – to have a country or dismember the fragile union – you delegates have been providentially elected to choose who will eventually become Nigeria’s next President. I really envy you.

Note that the coming presidential election offers Nigerians yet another opportunity to take back their country from the elite conspirators and turn this geographical expression called Nigeria into a nation and it is you, the delegates that will make that happen. It starts with the presidential primaries where the delegates enjoy a unique chance to vote for a real change (not chain) and salvation of Nigeria; or, take money (one wishes delegates  can collect money from all of them and still do the needful, after all, it is our money). We just cannot allow the same crop of soulless, callous and so-called leaders to choose President Buhari’ and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s successors.

Dear delegates, note that those who elect bad leaders for whatever reason – primordial, pecuniary or whatever – are not victims of their misrules, but accomplices. First, there is no time for a 3rd force to be formed and take root, and INEC will not register a new party so there won’t be mergers. Only the 18 already registered political parties will stand the 2023 Presidential election and out of this 18, only the APC and the PDP have the grassroots structures, the wherewithal and serving governors to deliver the President of Nigeria. Make no mistake about it; the next President of Nigeria is coming from the APC or the PDP unless no presidential election is held.

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This being the case, one is actually addressing only the APC and the PDP delegates since Nigerians will be compelled to vote between the two presidential candidates they choose as the flag-bearers of the two mega political parties.

To begin with, the two presidential flag-bearers have to be from South Nigeria, and ultimately from the South-East, and the reason will be dissected in a moment and, thereafter, left to  conscience to be the judge.

The way Nigeria is configured has made rotation of presidential power between North and South inevitable. The North has 20 states and the South 17, since the FCT is considered a state for the purpose of electing the President of Nigeria. The North also has over 50 Local Govt Areas more than the South and a lot more wards also, giving the North almost 60% upper hand. Without rotation of power between North and South, it is certain that almost always, the North will produce the President of Nigeria. This will certainly alienate the South and hinder unity and development, the reason the PDP wrote into its constitution, the principle of rotation of presidential power between North and South Nigeria in 2009 even though that party has now, most unfortunately, thrown their presidential ticket open to all Nigerians.

Both the PDP and the APC say they have thrown their presidential tickets open despite the trend and convention since 1999 which have seen ration of power between North and South as only expedient. Some want to truncate this beautiful arrangement, which has guaranteed stability in our democracy. They argue that jettisoning of zoning is in obedience to the fundamental human rights of all aspirants enshrined in the 1999 Constitution(as amended). Yet, it is unjust and divisive, especially now that the odds clearly favour the South-East. Unity of Nigeria must come first. Thank gracious, you delegates know what is just – the next President of Nigeria should come from South Nigeria in 2023 and from the South-East if it has to serve justice, equity and unity.

Dear Delegates, permit me to briefly chronicle the fundamental contributions and sacrifices made by Ndigbo (particularly of the South-East) for the One Nigeria project and to entrench democracy in the country.

Right from the foundation, the Nigerian nation was colonized by Britain between 1900 and 1960. The struggle to liberate Nigeria from the clutches of colonial rule was led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo man of South-East extraction. Yet, when Nigeria attained independence, for the sake of national unity, Zik as he was better known, conceded the position of Prime Minister by going into alliance with the Northern People Congress (NPC) instead of with the Action Group.

For this sacrifice, unlike Kwame Nkruma of Ghana and the others, Zik became the only leader of the African independence struggle that did not become the Executive President or Prime Minister of his country.

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Before Nigeria’s Independence, Zik played a pivotal role in keeping the country united. For instance, when the oneness of Nigeria was threatened in 1953 it was Zik who prevailed on the splintering section to return to the fold and further insisted that the secession clause should not be included in the 1960 Independent Constitution for compel Nigerians to form a nation.

Sadly, the First Republic collapsed following a military coup held erroneously against Ndigbo, and then pogroms and a civil war followed, which have left a lingering feeling of animosity between the two sides of the conflict since 1970 when the shooting battle ended. This is the time to bring to a closure the Nigeria civil war and all issues thereto.

It should be particularly noted that but for a brief 6 months rule of Major General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi as Nigeria’s military head of state (January 1966 – July 1966), no Igbo or South-East person has led Nigeria since independence. Yet, the zone has actively supported candidates from both North and South Nigeria as a sacrifice to keep Nigeria one.

Fast forward to the present democratic dispensation, which set sail in 1999; Dr. Alex Ekwueme of the blessed memory from the South-East, led the G-34 to form the Peoples Democratic Party, the PDP, and led the process that eased the military out of power and ushered in the present democratic dispensation.

For the exceptional leadership he displayed, coupled with his reputation as a statesman and former Vice President who served his country meritoriously, everyone looked forward to Ekwueme emerging as the next President of Nigeria. But for some inexplicable reasons, this was not to be. Ekwueme, as a statesman and one of the best Igbo exports, did not rock the boat but remained a patriot and a good party man.

Let us again recall that in 1998, at the All Peoples Party (APP) Convention in Kaduna, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, another illustrious Igbo son from the South-East, won as the flag bearer of the party but stepped down for Olu Falae for his party and AD to present a single candidate. This was yet another sacrifice by an illustrious Igbo son from the South-East and made for national unity.

Note also, even before Ogbonnaya Onu stepped down, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who had already purchased the form to contest for the presidential ticket of Alliance for Democracy (AD) with N1m, stepped down for Chief Olu Falae. This was yet another major sacrifice by another Igbo son from the South- East.

Now, in the next couple of days, the 18 registered political parties will be holding their presidential primaries to elect their presidential flag-bearers. One wishes to, on behalf of the South-East, passionately appeal:

The PDP and the APC should not forget these numerous sacrifices made to keep the nation united and keep this democratic rule going strong.

Delegates to the APC and the PDP presidential primaries should recall that in 1999, the two main political parties – PDP and AD/APP – fielded General Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae, both from the South West, and this would not have been possible if two Igbo sons did not sacrifice their aspirations in spite of committing millions of naira before stepping down. These they did for national unity.

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The party delegates in the PDP and the APC will agree that no South-West or South-South person will say that Nigeria has not been fair and kind to their zones. In this dispensation alone, the two zones have, each, produced both President and Vice President in their eminent sons,  namely: Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Also, note that in 2007, the leading political parties fielded Major General Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, both from North West. Again in 2019, the two main parties, PDP and APC, fielded Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari, both from the North. So, the two main political parties can likewise field candidates only from the South-East. If this concession could happen for the South West, it should also be extended to the South-East for the sake of national unity.

Also note that South-East has thrown up several viable candidates, such as Peter Obi who stands tall whether the consideration is based on zoning and on based merit. There is also Anyim Pius Anyim in PDP, eminently qualified also. We have also given you Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Sen Ken Nnamani in the APC and Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the veteran.

Dear party delegates, now that nobody can claim that the South-East lacks qualified aspirants, it is crucial to urge you to think deeply about the future, unity and development of our nation and think less of personal gains, which could inflict more suffering on Nigerians for another 4 to 8 years. For instance, Peter Obi and indeed others mentioned have shown clarity on HOW to resolve the nation’s key problems namely: unity, insecurity, corruption,  economic development and unemployment.

Dear compatriots, as you are aware, no zone can single-handedly produce the President of Nigeria in view of the provisions of the constitution; the South East is earnestly asking for the support and understanding of the other five geopolitical zones to produce the nation’s President in 2023.

One is convinced that producing a Nigerian President of South East extraction in 2023 will be a win-win for all Nigerians as it will bring a closure to  Nigeria civil war  and usher in a sense of belonging and create the atmosphere to begin the critical task and process of nation building.

May God give you the grace to hold the future of our children and that of our country uppermost in your hearts as you chose the Presidential flag-bearer of your parties. Do this and posterity will be kind to you.

•Dr. Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: [email protected]; follow me on twitter:@DrLawMefor.

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